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People-centered thinking: The new face of emergency medical services

When a new device clearly benefits both responder and patient, in-field usage naturally follows

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EMS clearly has people at its heart, but there’s no doubt technology is having a huge impact across healthcare.

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Legend has it that, during the rebuilding of St. Paul’s after the Great Fire of London, the architect Christopher Wren noticed three bricklayers with very different demeanors. When asked what he was doing, the slowest said, “Can’t you see? I’m laying bricks.” The middle one said, “I’m making a nice, straight wall.” The third, by far the most engaged and diligent, happily answered, “I’m building a great cathedral to the glory of the Almighty!”

It’s important to feel that we matter. When we understand that our actions form part of a larger whole, we feel a connection to something more significant than the individual task at hand.

The sense of a higher purpose driving EMS responders is clear; we know because we ask them all the time. And whether someone’s answer leads with “helping people”, “looking after my community” or “feeling that my work makes a difference”, no one ever describes their job in purely unemotive terms.

Unlike Wren’s historical laborers, today, people are mostly free to choose how they spend their working lives. They’re in it to make the biggest difference they can, and that’s what we concentrate on helping them achieve.

It’s the way we encourage our clients to think too.


EMS clearly has people at its heart, but there’s no doubt technology is having a huge impact across healthcare. We now have access to much more real-time data, from ambulances, wearables, equipment and medicines. When even a defibrillator sends its own signals to update location and charging status, it can sometimes feel as if the balance has shifted away from people and towards automation.

Nothing could be further from the truth. People remain, as they always will, at the heart of EMS. Our job is to help them make the most of technology; to provide them with solutions that are seamless and instinctive to use and become indispensable partners in getting the job done and supporting the sense of higher purpose so critical to job satisfaction.

That’s why we interrogate what matters to your people, working alongside them in the field to understand the big things to the nuances that our technology needs to address. What does a device need to feel like to use in the field? Whose fingers will be operating it, in what conditions, and will they be wearing gloves? How demanding will the working environment be – will the ambient temperature be high, or will devices need to work in fridges or freezers – are dust, liquid, or other hazards present?

A tablet, say, needs to be rugged enough so your paramedics can focus on the people they’re assisting rather than protecting the equipment, but not so chunky that it’s hard to hold in one smaller-fingered hand. Above all, its function needs to make instant sense to the person using it, because that’s the first thing they’ll ask. Does this actually help me perform better, or is it another thing to remember to use?


When did you last look at the instruction manual for a mobile phone? Exactly. We’ve come to expect our tech to understand us, rather than the other way around.

Anything we develop is clear in its purpose and logical to use, requiring minimal training. Indeed, genuinely people-centered design is making old-school training obsolete.

When a device clearly benefits both responder and patient – in keeping with the higher purpose – in-field usage naturally follows. The people at the sharp end of EMS are smart, capable and adaptable. If something has evidently been thought through from their perspective, it’ll get used – and pay for itself in morale as much as efficiency.

Those who choose EMS as a career are in it because it has meaning. We take similar pride in our work, too, with the goal of augmenting your team’s human capabilities with devices that become trusted partners in getting the job done.

About the author

ACETECH is a global manufacturer of vehicle intelligence for emergency service fleets. Its Fleet Performance Optimization Technology and Services help emergency fleets improve overall performance, put an end to manual vehicle data collection, minimize liability risk, and meet global standards of efficiency. Visit for more information.